When it comes to providing a safe working environment for employees working from home, employers have the same obligation as they do for employees working anywhere else. However, advice on what constitutes fulfilling that obligation varies greatly!

In the first instance, a Risk Assessment should be carried out by a qualified person to properly understand and assess the risk – but this is no different for employees working in an office. Generally, health and safety-wise, working from home is likely to be considered low risk, but this may be affected by how much time the employee will be working from home, the type of work undertaken, any disabilities, etc.

At the very least, an employer has an obligation to regularly assess an employee’s desktop working environment, called a Display Screen Equipment assessment, for any employee who uses display screen equipment (DSE) daily, as part of their normal work, continuously for an hour or more – regardless of where that might be. The Health and Safety Executive explain the requirements of a DSE Assessment as follows:

“Employers should look at:

  • the whole workstation, including equipment, furniture, and work conditions
  • the job being done
  • any special requirements of a member of staff, for example a user with a disability

Where there are risks, they should take steps to reduce them.

Employers must also do an assessment when:

  • a new workstation is set up
  • a new user starts work
  • a change is made to an existing workstation or the way it’s used
  • users complain of pain or discomfort”

A DSE Assessment is there to help identify and report any issues being experienced with an employee’s DSE setup, including identifying where assistive technology, for example, dictation software is needed – it is not necessarily there to impose any particular type of environment. For example, an employee who prefers to work at their kitchen table may be perfectly able to continue to do so as long as they are reporting no difficulties or discomfort, and is reviewed regularly.

A DSE Assessment can be done by the employee themselves – there are many self-assessment resources available varying from questionnaires to software with advice and guidance, and iDiversity will soon have a free to use on-line tool for you, too – but a suitably qualified person should always review the assessment results and ensure any adjustments needed are implemented, whether that be guidance and advice or replacement equipment.

When it comes to providing adjustments for employees working from home, whose responsibility is it to pay for them? Generally speaking, any equipment or software required, including chairs and desks are likely to be the employer’s responsibility, but structural changes are usually considered to be the employee’s responsibility. For example, the provision of a desk would be the employer’s responsibility but removing shelves to accommodate the desk would be the employee’s.

Providing desks and chairs for home workers needn’t be an expensive under taking. For example, there may be unused equipment in the office that could be shipped to the employee – especially in these times where many of us have switched from the office to working from home. Sometimes, a difficulty with an existing chair can be rectified with an ergonomic support or cushion. Finally, there are many examples of suitable, cost-effective chairs and desks available should they be needed – at Dyslexic.com we’ve created some cost-effective, ‘work from home’ ergonomic bundles with all the essentials.

Author: Jay Cochran
In my role as the Chief Operating Officer for iDiversity, I oversee all of the company’s operational procedures, development and deployment of our services, and administer our Marketing and and web-based services. Returning to Cambridge after graduating with Plymouth University with a degree in Web Technologies, I joined iansyst and iDiversity and further developed my passion for equality and diversity, particularly within the workplace. My university years gave me a first hand experience of the needs of disabled students, both within education and transitioning into employment and further fuelled my desire to make accessibility a national issue for which i strive to raise awareness of within my role.